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Honoring Washington's African-Americans | Kitsap Week

BREMERTON — Kitara McClure Johnson has quite a story to tell. The Eastern Washington resident was once a First Lady of the Black Disciples, a prominent Chicago Gang renowned for its violence.

“She almost died in Chicago,” said Deborah Moore Jackson, founder of Surviving the Change. “She made 180-degree change in her life.”

Johnson traded gang life for a military one. She graduated from college and, today, has a career with Department of Veterans Affairs. She started a youth program in Eastern Washington, gave a TEDx talk about adjusting to changes, and shared her story with the United Nations.

Johnson is one of many with inspiring stories who will be honored at the 2014 Washington State African-American Achievement Awards. The awards are sponsored by Surviving the Change and the New Life Community Development Agency.

The awards event will be from 4:30-8 p.m., Feb. 15 at Bremerton High School, 1500 13th St., Bremerton.

Social and dinner hour will be from 4:30-5:30 p.m. The awards will be from 6-8 p.m.

Dr. Elinor Montgomery will deliver the keynote speech, and the ceremony will include Pastor Patrinell Wright, the Colorlines Dance Company, and the Northwest Tap Connection.

Karen Vargas, Eddie Rye Jr. and Regina Hill will be honored for their efforts to get a Bremerton street named after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And comedian Tracie Davis will be honored for her work as a community leader.

This is Moore Jackson’s  third year organizing the awards, which she founded to honor African-Americans who have influenced Washington in the past or are making a difference today.

“This is to give some encouragement and awareness of what African-American people have always been doing,” she said.

Another special honoree this year is Lane Dowell, a former Bremerton teacher. Though not African- American, he was an influential figure to black students.

“When we were coming up, we didn’t have African- American teachers,” Moore Jackson said. “He took us underneath his wing ... he saw us through school and through barriers.”

Moore Jackson said Dowell helped African- American students make the grade in a time when communities were separate and the helpful notion wasn’t popular.

“We need to share about white teachers that went beyond the call of duty and risked their jobs to help us be successful and have an equal education,” she said. “This is in appreciation for what he did for us, even though he got in trouble.”

The awards event is free, though donations are welcome.

For more information about the awards, email debrahpassion@yahoo.com.

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